Do you remember the story of the woman who came up to Jesus in a crowd and touched him?*
Now because of her medical condition, this woman should not even been aloowed out in public – according to the law of her day
And it was certainly against the law of her time for her to touch anyone. That did not matter to Jesus, and, obviously, that did not matter to the woman. Jesus used the same words with the woman as he used with other healed persons: “Your faith has made you well”
There is however the interesting reversal of the direction of the action in this healing story. Many times Jesus touched others. Here, another person touches Jesus. The initiation of the healing process is backwards, but it works anyway. Her faith made her well. Her faith saved her. She, like all the others who were healed, went in peace and she was healed. As the old King James Bible put it, she was “made whole.”
How strange it is that Jesus’ healing touch and healing presence worked as well in reverse as in drive!
Touch is so important in healing, and yet how sensitive many people are to touch. Back in the 60’s and early 70’s there was a great deal of touching and hugging going on. Close community ties and a strong sense of togetherness marked the peace movement. “Make love, not war,” was a favourite chant of the times. Those were touchy-feely times in more ways than one.
The past two decades have nearly seen an end to touching. If a secretary is touched by her boss, she might file a sexual harassment charge against him. Teachers are told again and again not to touch the youngsters in their charge. There are good reasons for this, but when it comes to the point that a primary school teacher cannot hug one of her pupils when he or she has fallen in the playground and is crying in distress and pain, something is wrong.
It can be difficult sometimes – especially when so many of our actions can be misconstrued or misinterpreted.
When I was a Hospital Chaplain, I once came across an elderly female patient in one of the four-bedded Infirmary wards. This lady had something wrong with her leg – that’s why she was in hospital. After chatting to her for a few minutes, she asked me to pray for her. I put my hand on her shoulder, and said a brief prayer. At the end of it, she thanked me for my words– but said ‘It would have been better though if you’d put your hand on my leg”
Because hugs and touchings of any kind, seem so out of place today in our litigious society. Yet, if the touching stops, we must ask ourselves if the healing will also stop – if the wholeness will also stop – if the faith will also stop, and if we will no longer be able to find a way to go forth into this world in peace.
Healing, restoration, wholeness, both physical and spiritual, all are contained in the meaning of the words that Jesus spoke that day, but probably none of the above would have marked that day if someone had not reached out and touched someone else.
* Mark 5:25-34
Contemporary English Version (CEV)
25 In the crowd was a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had gone to many doctors, and they had not done anything except cause her a lot of pain. She had paid them all the money she had. But instead of getting better, she only got worse.
27 The woman had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him in the crowd and barely touched his clothes. 28 She had said to herself, “If I can just touch his clothes, I will get well.” 29 As soon as she touched them, her bleeding stopped, and she knew she was well.
30 At that moment Jesus felt power go out from him. He turned to the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 His disciples said to him, “Look at all these people crowding around you! How can you ask who touched you?” 32 But Jesus turned to see who had touched him.
33 The woman knew what had happened to her. She came shaking with fear and knelt down in front of Jesus. Then she told him the whole story.
34 Jesus said to the woman, “You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain.”